The 10:23 Homeopathy Campaign

In the ongoing effort to help educate the public on the misleading and oftentimes fraudulent claims of some alternative medicines, hundreds of skeptics from the UK and Australia will be taking “overdose” amounts of homeopathic pills in public places at 10:23 GMT on January 30th. This act will be both a symbolic and practical demonstration that homeopathy does nothing, and that the medical claims of that industry are harmful and unethical.  This mass overdose event was inspired by an admission by Boots (Her Majesty’s CVS), that while they recognize that homeopathic medicine does not work, they stock it because “customers believe it works“.

I too find myself confused sometimes when looking for cold remedies at the local pharmacy.  What about Emergen-C and Airborne? Unless you are dangerously vitamin deficient (if you don’t have an eating disorder you are almost certainly not), they do no good. The only vitamin which is endemically deficient in the United States is vitamin D.

However Emergen-C and Airborne are not homeopathic.  Homeopathic drugs do not contain anything, in any dose, that does any good for the body.  Well, that’s not true – they are made of water or alcohol, and both of those are good.  Homeopathic medicines are derived when a concentrated solution is added to water, and then diluted repeatedly until few, if any, molecules of the original substance remain.  To quote, the “dilution advocated by Hahnemann (founder) for most purposes (30C), would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material”.  A distillation of 13C is roughly equivalent to one drop of a substance mixed with all of the water on earth.  In homeopathy, the more diluted the substance, the more potent it becomes.  This extends to even further dilution of a fluid already devoid of a single molecule of the original substance (sometimes up to 1000C).  To help describe the magnitude of this dilution, a level of 4C is the maximum allowable concentration of arsenic in the U.S. public water supply.

If you look at the website for the major homeopathy lobby, the NCH, they have a “Is there evidence that homeopathy works?” question in the FAQ’s on their homepage.  They reference this list of hundreds of scientific studies that they claim have found, to quote the website, “that homeopathy works.”  This is a purposeful misrepresentation of the truth. During meta analysis of all studies, there is no effect beyond the placebo from any homeopathic treatment.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.  Mistakes in dilution and contamination of homeopathic substances do harm people.  Not to mention the damage done when people delay (or fail to take) proper medication in favor of homeopathic treatments.

What can we do about all of this?  Well, no need for everyone to go swallowing lots of pills in public places.  Reach out to a friend or family member and have a conversation with them about the inefficacy of homeopathic medicine, and urge them to thoroughly research it themselves, as I urge you.  In defense of Boots, they should be able to sell a vial of water to anyone who wants to buy it. The dilemma is that most people don’t know the facts behind the lie, and trust that their pharmacy won’t sell them 19th century nonsense camouflaged as legitimate medicine.  The more people who scoff at these alternative treatments being placed next to real, science-based medicines, the less likely our pharmacies are to do it.

UPDATE:

Video of the event from the Edinburgh Skeptics:

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~ by Wil Finley on January 29, 2010.

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